The FDA is testing herbs and avocado products through a new program. ( File photo )

Citing the lack of “kill steps” for three fresh herbs and a welcome environment for pathogens in guacamole and other processed avocado products, the Food and Drug Administration is testing them for pathogens.

The FDA will be releasing results periodically during the 18-month testing program, which will test 1,600 samples of the herbs — fresh basil, cilantro and parsley — and the same number of processed avocado products.

As of January 1, the agency has tested 35 domestic samples and 104 imported samples of the herbs, finding no pathogens in the U.S. herbs and salmonella or Shiga toxin-producing E. coli in 4 imported herb samples.

In the same period, the FDA found that three of the 58 U.S.-processed avocado products that were tested had listeria, and one of the 49 imported samples had listeria.

“It is important to note that no conclusions about overall contamination rates can be made until all of the data are collected, validated and analyzed,” according to a news release from the FDA.

If microbial hazards are found during the program, the FDA will pursue “an appropriate regulatory and enforcement option,” according to the release.
So far, the testing program has led to “imported products capable of causing disease were prevented entry into the United States and domestic products were voluntarily recalled.”

No recalls relating to the herbs, guacamole or other avocado products have been announced through the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition’s website in recent months.

The research will help the FDA identify possible common factors relating to the positive samples, according to the release.

From 1996-2015, the FDA linked nine outbreaks related to the three herbs, seven of which were from cyclospora. Although the current testing is for salmonella and E. coli, cyclospora testing begins in the summer, when it is more common, according to the release.

From 2005-15, there were 12 outbreaks linked to whole avocados and avocados, nine of which were salmonella related.

The FDA will update its results every quarter, according to the agency.


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